FAQ

The following questions are some of the questions that I have received more than once regarding this site. I did not write this page to discourage people from sending me questions via personal email or the feedback form. Even if this page fully answers your questions, feel free to write for further clarification, to comment on the site, or just to chat about Japan.

  1. What are your credentials? or How authoritative is this site?
  2. May I link to your site? / Could you add a link to my site?
  3. May I use some of your pictures?
  4. Can you recommend a good book about Japanese Castles?
  5. Can I use your website as material for my class?
  6. Are there any castles in Japan that allow you to stay overnight?
  7. Are there any Japanese Castles for sale?


Travel - or - I'm taking a trip to Japan and I'd like to ask you a couple of questions.
I get many questions about travel in Japan. So many in fact, that answering travel questions was the main reason for putting together this FAQ page. If you have any further questions feel free to write. You should also check the Japan Guide website or post in their forums.

  1. I only have a short amount of free time during my trip to Japan, which castle should I visit?
  2. Do you think it's worth it to get a JR Pass?
  3. When is the best time to visit Japan?
  4. What is your favorite place in Japan to visit?
  5. I've heard hotels in Japan are expensive. Are there other affordable alternatives?
  6. How easy it is to get around on Japanese public transportation?
  7. If we are traveling on a Japan Rail Pass, what type of tickets are we holding (Reserved Seating)?
  8. For Japan Rail Pass, do we just jump on any train because we have the Pass?
  9. I never traveled on a Japan Rail Pass so I don't know what to expect. I do know that we must buy here in the USA?
  10. Do you know of any web sites that can give me a train schedule that I can read?
  1. What are your credentials? or How authoritative is this site?
  2. This is a question I am often asked by librarians and school teachers. I do not profess to be an expert on Japan. I have lived here for about 10. As a librarian myself, I value the integrity of information and have made every effort to make this site as authoritative as possible. If you find any errors, please let me know and they will be corrected promptly. To that end, there are also some differences between sources regarding dates, founders, etc., especially when new castles were built over the sites of older ones.

  3. May I link to your site? / Could you add a link to my site?
  4. Of course you may link to my site. I'd be happy to add a link to anyone's site if it has content that would be relevant to readers of this site.

  5. May I use some of your pictures?
  6. No, you may not use any picture on this site without written permission from me. I haven't turned down a request so far, but I absolutely want to know who is using my pictures and in what way. I have asked people who used my pictures without permission to permanently remove them from their sites in the past so please ask first. If I grant someone permission to use my pictures, I absolutely forbid deep linking to the pictures. Please copy them and place them on your own server.

  7. Can you recommend a good book about Japanese Castles?
  8. Please see the Castle Library page.

  9. Can I use your website as material for my class?
  10. Yes, of course. If your students put together an interesting web portable project or write a good essay about Japanese Castles after viewing this site I'd be more than happy to temporarily host it on my page or provide a link to your school's page.

  11. Are there any castles in Japan that allow you to stay overnight?
  12. To my knowledge there are none in Japan. No real castles at least. I have seen a couple of hotels that were shaped on the outside to resemble castles, but they are not real. You may want to look for old temples where you can stay though. There are some temples throughout Japan that offer modest accommodations. You may also want to look for old style Ryokan in the mountains. They are everywhere.

  13. Are there any Japanese Castles for sale?
  14. I've gotten this question a very surprising number of times. No, there are no castles for sale. There are very few real castle in existence and they will never be for sale, reconstructions aren't likely to be put on the sale block either.

  15. I only have a short amount of free time during my trip to Japan, which castle should I visit?
  16. That depends on where you are. If your trip or free time is while you are in Tokyo, then I would try to go to Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture. You can probably do it in a one day trip. Take the Chuo Main Line express from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo straight to Matsumoto. If you are in the Kyoto/Osaka area it is very easy to make a day trip to Himeji Castle. Just take the Shinkansen to Himeji station. There are other trains too, but if you have a JR pass just take the Shinkansen. These two castles are probably the most spectacular castles in Japan and are always worth the trip. Matsuyama in Shikoku is well worth the trip and of course Kumamoto Castle in Kyushu is great too.
  17. Do you think it's worth it to get a JR Pass?
  18. Unless you plan to stay just within the vicinity of Tokyo, it is probably worthwhile. It seems expensive, but travelling by shinkansen in Japan is very expensive. For a 7 day pass, a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and any othe rtravel you do during the week will likely pay for the pass.

  19. When is the best time to visit Japan
  20. I think the best time to travel in Japan is in the autumn, probably October. Many people like spring for the cherry blossoms but it's unfortunate that many people also overlook the beauty of the Japanese fall. Spring weather can be unpredictable but October is generally quite mild anywhere you go. I also like October because there are usually many festivals around the harvest time in each region. August can be miserably hot and most tourist areas are crowded. It rains too much in June and there are often several typhoons in September, so I really think October is the best.

  21. What is your favorite place in Japan to visit?
  22. This is a hard question. Of course Kyoto is great, but everyone knows that. One of the best trips took was a two day hiking/backpacking trip through Oze National Park. As long as the park is open, it's usually fairly crowded but the beauty of the park is unrivalled throughout Japan. It's also interesting how much the scenery changes along the trail. I also like it because it's one of the more pristine natural areas in the country. I like outdoors and hiking so I mostly like those kinds of places the best. I went to a lot of great little known trails in Tohoku while I lived in Fukushima. There were also some beautiful trails in the Nakasendo and Kisoji areas in Nagano.
    Besides hiking trips and castles, I also liked Miyajima and Itsukushima Shrine. If you go to Hiroshima it's a simple one day trip from there. Nikko is a great spot too. Don't just spend all your time in the Nikko shrines though. A lot of people go to Kamakura but they go straight to the giant Buddha and Tsuruoka Hachimangu. I actually recommend visiting some of the temples in Kita Kyushu much more.
    One thing I think everyone who goes to Japan should do is to visit an onsen. I never thought I'd like it, but once I tried one I was hooked. I regret not having gone to one the first time I was here.

  23. I've heard hotels in Japan are expensive. Are there other affordable alternatives?
  24. This is a bit of a difficult question. It depends on what type of accommodations you are looking for. The typical big hotels that are likely to be listed in English guidebooks are generally expensive, but reasonable accommodations can also be found. The Toyoko Inn and Tokyu Stay hotels are generally fairly inexpensive. Ryokan, traditional inns, are even more expensive but probably worth it to spend one night there for the experience. An onsen might be an even better option for such an experience.
    Youth Hostels also offer very inexpensive rooms. One of the good things about youth hostels is that they often have hostels in some very out-of-the-way and unique locations where it might be difficult for foreigners to find other accommodations. Usually someone who works there will be able to speak enough English to help you out. They can help you find a post office, tourist attractions or even help you make reservations at other youth hostels around the country.

  25. How easy it is to get around on Japanese public transportation?
  26. Very easy. Most signs are in English and Japanese and most stations have a map in English too. There are always plenty of signs pointing you in the right direction, but some of the big stations can be a little confusing to navigate inside of.
    Another suggestion that might make your trip a little easier is to get a book called "Japan : A Bilingual Atlas" published by Kodansha. Its maps have most towns and JR stations in Japan on them. They also have pretty decent maps of the major cities and Nikko. It will help you to understand a little better where you are and to help get your bearings in relation to the whole country and your surrounding area. The best feature is that ALL place names and attraction names are written in both Kanji and in English. If you find yourself somewhere with no English signs you can always rely on this book to figure out what things are. In the same series, they have bilingual atlases for Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto but you are unlikely to need them since you won't be spending that much time in those places.

  27. If we are traveling on a Japan Rail Pass, what type of tickets are we holding (reserved seating)?
  28. Non reserved. But you can show your pass and ask for a "shiteiken" at the Green Counter (midori-no-madoguchi) and get a reserved seat prior to each individual trip.

  29. For Japan Rail Pass, do we just jump on any train because we have the Pass.
  30. Yes, just show the pass at the gate for any JR train except Nozomi Shinkansen. Please note that there are also several other private companies that operate trains and subways in Japan and they do not accept the JR Pass. I've never been able to get one myself, because I've never had the fortune to travel on a tourist visa.

  31. I never traveled on a Japan Rail Pass so I don't know what to expect. I do know that we must buy it here in the USA.
  32. Yes, you must buy a voucher for the pass in the US. Then you exchange the voucher for the actual travel pass in Japan at one of the major train stations, including Narita Airport.

  33. Do you know of any web sites that can give me a train schedule that I can read?
  34. Try these two:
    http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi
    http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae/e-norikeyin.html
    http://www.jreast.co.jp/jrp/
    This site explains procedures, prices, etc for the JR Pass.